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L.A. County passes sweeping ban on plastic bags

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Enacting one of the nation's most aggressive environmental measures, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ban plastic grocery bags in unincorporated areas of the county.

The vote was 3-1, supported by Supervisors Gloria Molina, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Zev Yaroslavsky, and opposed by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. Supervisor Don Knabe was absent.

La-me-plastic-bags  The ban, which will cover nearly 1.1 million residents countywide, is to the point: “No store shall provide to any customer a plastic carryout bag.” An exception would be made for plastic bags that are used to hold fruit, vegetables or raw meat in order to prevent contamination with other grocery items.

If grocers choose to offer paper bags, they must sell them for 10 cents each, according to the ordinance. The revenue will be retained by the stores to purchase the paper bags and educate customers about the law.

“Plastic bags are a pollutant. They pollute the urban landscape. They are what we call in our county urban tumbleweed,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.

Mark Gold, president of the Santa Monica environmental group Heal the Bay, said previous county efforts to promote recycling of plastic bags at grocery stores was a failure.

“You cannot recycle your way out of the plastic bag problem,” Gold said. “The cost of convenience can no longer be at the expense of the environment.”

The measure is a significant win for environmental groups, which suffered a major defeat in Sacramento at the end of August with the failure of the state Senate to pass a sweeping plastic bag ban that won the support of the state Assembly and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger amid heavy and costly lobbying by plastic bag manufacturers.

But the ban could cause confusion. The action by the Board of Supervisors only covers the unincorporated areas of L.A. County, covering some neighborhoods like Altadena, Valencia and Rowland Heights, but doesn't cover 88 cities in L.A. County. City councils could adopt a similar ordinance.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich  raised the prospect that small mom-and-pop shops could suffer financially because they won’t be able to buy paper and reusable bags in great volume, and could force low-income people to buy bags to pick up pet waste or carry their lunch.

“At a time of economic uncertainty, with a large number of businesses leaving our state and community this would not be an appropriate time ... to impose this additional regulation,” Antonovich said.

Opponents of the ban told the supervisors that a legal challenge to the ban is still a possibility.

With the Tuesday vote, L.A. County’s measure is more stringent than similar bans adopted elsewhere in California, Gold said.  

San Francisco’s ban, which passed three years ago, is less restrictive because it still permits grocers to offer bioplastic bags made from corn starch, which are imperfect because they also do not degrade in the ocean, Gold said. Bans in San Francisco and Malibu also do not add a surcharge on paper bags, Gold said, which does not give consumers an incentive to switch to reusable cloth bags.

Washington, D.C., decided to tackle the issue not with a ban on any kind of bag, but a 5-cent surcharge per any item of disposable bag.

Gold, however, said an outright ban will be more effective on reducing the 6 billion plastic bags that are used in L.A. County every year, which according to the county, account for 25% of the litter picked up here.

Government figures show that just 5% of plastic bags are recycled.

Last week, the American Chemistry Council, one of the chief opponents of the ban,  warned L.A. County leaders that the proposed ordinance and fee on paper bags fall under the voting requirements of Proposition 26. The initiative, which passed this month, reclassifies most regulatory fees on industry as "taxes" requiring a two-thirds vote in government bodies or in public referendums, rather than a simple majority.

County Counsel Andrea Ordin said Tuesday that the 10-cent surcharge on paper bags is not a fee covered by Prop. 26 because the revenue is being kept by the grocers and not directed to a government agency.

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-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration 

Photo: Laurie Gould of Pasadena shows her support for a ban on plastic bags during a meeting of the  L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (149)

When will they ban humans?

Did it ever occur to these people to offer an incentive to use the reusable bags? How about mandating a 5-cent refund for every bag you bring in? Some stores already do this voluntarily. But that's just crazy talk, I suppose. Why offer incentives when you can screw the average consumer and the small store owner?

I re-use and recycle my plastic grocery bags, so I guess I won't be shopping at Ralph's in Ladera Heights anymore. No way am I going to be forced into providing my own bags or paying 10 cents apiece for paper ones. I'll just start shopping in Culver City and Inglewood.

Hurrah! No more will I need to explain that the gallon of milk has a handle on it, so I won't need a bag. And because one bag isn't strong enough, I won't need two either.

I'm glad 10%+ unemployment in the county has been solved so they could now move on to this issue...

OK I understand the ban, I live in an area where these bags are all over like leaves!

BUT

How does the BOS justify FORCING business people to charge for a product (paper bags) that as a Business they can decide to give away for free?

Guess LA County is gonna be spending money on legal bills over this one!

LA County Stores you should offer a 10 a bag discount for shopping at your county stores!

One other thought:

By law Alcohol has to be bagged unless it is in a closed box like a 12 pack, so why is the BOS penalizing Customers for obeying the law?

Awesome!

Typical smoke and mirrors adding up to nothing. Banning bags in the poor, unrepresented, and unincorporated areas is a total failure of political will. Hey, why not Santa Monica? Tons of wealthy white people there, let them put their money where their big mouths are. Or Palos Verde? Or Malibu? Places where the residents can actually pay to reuse bags or pay for plastic?

I'll tell you why. Because everyone is a hypocrite, no one wants to sacrifice anything, but we all want pie in the sky fantasies about clean air and water. It's the same with our politicians, no courage, no political will to do anything but follow, their idea of political will is putting it on some stupid proposition for the citizens to vote for. Somebody LEAD US!

I would like to know will the consumer also reap the benefits of this Money Making scheme? It seems the Grocery Chains will make tons of money on this.. Not ordering or using plastic bags should drop the total cost of operation quite a bit. Money is saved all the way down and then the CLOWNS on the Council go ahead and give the Chains Stores and bigger break by handing them 10cents for each paper bag.

The 10cents per bag will then further hurt small stores, who for the sake of not losing more customers will most likely not charge the 10cents anyway.

So with this cost cutting measure, will the cost of FOOD and Sanitation Cleanup come DOWN? $100 says it will only contiue to CLIMB.

Los Angeles is be HIJACKED with each rising Sun by a group of treasonous traitors!

THIS IS A SCHEME THAT NEEDS TO BE STOPPED.

What am I going to line my waste baskets with then? Oh, I will probably be able to buy plastic bags from the private companies who will now be selling them.

I'm all for the green trend, but this law is just lame. How about we support the production of biodegradable or more green options. How about we offer more convenient ways to recycle -- most multi-household/office buildings don't offer recycling so of course things will end up in the trash.

I'm really tired of the band-aid solutions government keeps coming up with. How about we focus on root causes. e.g. green technology vs. bans in light of few alternatives, $ into education not jails, etc. Bah.

with the economy and jobless rates are beyond comprehension... this is what the "poloitical braintrust" feel is the most important issue to tackle??? and now you are going to have stores charging for bags... thanks for thinking about the unemployed, the elderly and the people who barely make ends meet! Way to go Molina et al...

Why don't they take those 10 cents per bag, and start a fund to retrain those workers who will lose their jobs once the bag manufacturers shut down.

And guess what? Those bag companies go out of business, and their taxes go with them. Adding more to the county's budget shortfall. So it is up to you-the taxpayer- to pay more taxes to make up for the loss.

I am extremely happy that LA took the initiative towards healing the wrongs we have done to our environment. I hope our state of New York is next!

Plastic food packaging is laden with toxic materials. There is no such thing as virgin plastic. Catalysts, additives, reaction byproducts can be very toxic. And for the most part unregulated by the FDA and EPA. One caution is never feed your baby using baby food packaged in plastic containers.

I hate plastic bags just as much as the next person, but why is a 10 cents per bag fee being mandated?

Another naive law. Plastic bags break down faster in landfills than paper bags or newspapers. Sown "reusable" bags still have plastic and processed chemicals used to fabricate them--and they too wear out or get lost and become trash. I don't think they thought out every circumstance. If they really want to make a mark, go after the diaper industry: they account for a much greater percentage of landfills than plastic bags (that 25% number sounds incredulous, btw).

Gotta love it! The gubment bans plastic bags because it's bad for the environment but does not ban smoking which is bad for both the environment and the user. Why? Can you imagine how big the state budget deficit would be without tobacco tax?

"Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich raised the prospect that small mom-and-pop shops could suffer financially because they won’t be able to buy paper and reusable bags in great volume, and could force low-income people to buy bags to pick up pet waste or carry their lunch." Antonovich is a naive hyocrite and we do not need his style of leadership. If mom and pops are more concerned with their own selfish profit than with the environment then they should not be in business. Hey, ever consider using somethign other than plastic bags to pick up after your pooch? Like junk mail paper, or paper towels? How stupid have we become as a society that we can't think outside the box.

WOW, talk about Big Brother. I use plastic bags to throw my trash into and to pick up dog poop.
I just think that this is way over the line. Thinl about the costs that markets will have. WHat about the bags that they have now? How will they get rid of them? Throw them away?
And what about the small store out there? That do not have the buying power of the Major Super Markets?
One would hope that the Board would have thought this one through a bit more. And who is going to pay 10 cents for a paper bag? I end up with an average of 10 to 12 bags on a shopping trip. That would mean that I would have to spend an extra dollar plus tax for paper bags.
This is at a time when every dollar counts.

Its about time

I think it's time for me to move my business out of California. It's only $2 million per year, but I'd rather hire people and pay taxes to a state that has common sense rather than CA that just throws our money away. This new law is absolutely stupid.

one more deterrent to doing business in LA

So, apparently no one really cares about what just took place? I'm glad I don't live in L.A. County and will avoid buying anything here. Great job L.A. Oh, my business will also not buy products from any business inside L.A. County. I just put out a company wide memo.

When does the ban take effect?

 
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